An Elephantine Enlightenment

Hello all! I’ve just returned from a beautiful and enlightening holiday (I didn’t go trekking in the Indian mountains and “find myself” or anything, but it was enlightening nonetheless – no sarcastic remarks, please) and have re-hopped fully back onto the writing pony, as I’m sure you’re all uncontrollably weeping with joy upon hearing. Or at least, I’d like to imagine that you are. Happy tears are best tears.

This neighing metaphor was not idly placed, here, but actually introduces the “nature” of this feature – animals. Or, more distinctly, animal rights. Whether you have your finger on the pulse of the area or not, animal rights are something that we all know of – whether it be fur issues, breeding issues or the issue of having animals perform, amongst many others. I have witnessed the first and latter of these first-hand, the former by simply living in a society in which fur can equal fashion (a concept I vehemently disagree with) and the latter by my experiences of visiting Thailand, in which I went on a school trip to the local zoo and witnessed several animal performances, and by buying a package day-trip in which an elephant ride was included.

Which leads to the question – just how ethical is it all?

Let me answer that quickly and briefly for you – 99/100 times, not very.

This sounds ridiculous but the older and wiser I become, the more compassion, love and empathy I feel for wildlife. When you’re a kid, animals just seem like eternally fun, happy, breathing teddy bears. Perhaps this outlook was cultivated by being raised in a household of dogs (the literal kind, my family ‘aint bitches), which loved to play with me and learn tricks, whilst simultaneously being fed a diet of Disney, in which all wild animals had their own little societies and pretty much always ended their stories happily, with the services of or in the habitat of humans. So why would any animal not like a playful, happy relationship with a human? Surely animals “need” our structures to find this happiness?

Well let me tell you something – no, they don’t. Animals don’t need shit from us, most of the time. Animals need to be left alone to live as they’ve always done for all of history. They are perfectly happy without our intrusion, unless we are intruding to save them from other humans.

Indeed, I really want to focus this article more on the treatment of elephants (as you may have guessed from my previously mentioning them) as that’s something that I’ve been following in recent times. Disgustingly, elephants are being malnourished, misused and abused all over the world, particularly in India and the U.S.A. according to my findings so far. Unfortunately, the illusion of ‘fun’ that circuses, zoos and ‘riding’ trips project concerning their performing animals are just that – an illusion. A smokescreen. These animals are treated awfully backstage and I can’t imagine that they particularly enjoy what they’re subjected to onstage either – if they disobey orders, they are beaten. They are shown no compassion, despite the fact that night after night they are forced to work under glaringly hot lights for our shallow amusement. The blase attitude shown towards this mistreatment, further, indicates that we are cultivating a society in which the majority can blow over such concerns, feeling no affinity with animals and thus no care for them, disregarding the fact that these creatures, too, have a life, and deserve to live the life they are owed.

The question is actually this – how can you expect an animal to be happy when you take them from their family, force them to live within your structures and make them dance to the beat of your drum, instead of the beat of their own natural instincts?

You can’t deprive a creature of its habitat and expect it to be happy. You’re taking away what it is owed – the life it is meant to live. When I naively went on my elephant trip, I found myself stunned by the way that they were treated – the elephants had faeces thrown at them (whether we were on them or not) and were whacked with sticks. It was a confusing experience as the majestic creatures seemed to love the attention that we gave them post-riding, giving them sugar sticks and hugging their trunks, but I can’t help but think that they must have been predominantly miserable, being forced to cart people around day after day.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these kind and humble creatures, focally via the assistance of Wildlife S.O.S., an animal rescue group, who are currently freeing circus elephants in India who have been sorely abused their whole lifetime.

These elephants were forced to do awful things and were mocked continuously by their owners, starved and kept in suffocating, closed quarters. I am not saying that it would be any better were this done to any other animal – of course it wouldn’t. Every creature is a living thing, with, as far as we can scientifically prove, one life, just like the rest of us. Every creature deserves the chance to enjoy this one life. But elephants, in particular, feel emotion like we do, form societies like we do. Elephants are intelligent, and can comprehend and portray their own sorrow. This makes the sin of mistreating them a degree worse, in my eyes, as the perpetrators of this misery cannot help but understand that the elephant knows fully what is happening to them. There is no secondary illusion of ignorance, here. Their misery is palpable, and they communicate it. People, then, are actively refusing to listen.

Wildlife S.O.S. have been doing their absolute best to fight this situation and have been doing a wonderful job, recently freeing five entrapped elephants, including an elephant which wept actual tears on being freed.

The team are still meeting incredible resistance. On their Facebook page they’ve been logging their attempts to help these animals, in particular an elephant named Mohan, and have commented that on one of their most recent rescue missions that ‘unfortunately, the attempt to load [Mohan] onto our transport vehicle and drive him to freedom was thwarted by a mob of around 300 people.’

It is absolutely baffling that this kind of resistance is happening. After my experiences and research into the topic – particularly upon elephant treatment – it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that the situation that many animals are in is dire. I am sorry that so many of these loving and gentle creatures are in pain, and sorry that I was so ignorant as to it when I went travelling myself. Exceptional charities like Wildlife S.O.S. should be rewarded and applauded for their efforts, and I believe humanity would be better off if we were more conscientious towards our creatures – none of them are villains at heart, and they should not be tormented as though they are.

If you want to donate to Wildlife S.O.S, you can do so via https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/circuselephants.

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